North Texas Daily

Opinion: Be sensitive when discussing immigration

Opinion: Be sensitive when discussing immigration

August 28
01:00 2014

When I read an article about immigration, be it from the North Texas Daily or the New York Times, I have to admit that seeing some compassionate bias would be ideal, but – being a journalist myself – I know that kind of attitude is not always the most appropriate.

At the least, I expect to see some level of conscious sensitivity, especially when it comes to the oft racially charged immigration debate.

The article that ran as “Denton County provides outreach and assistance for immigrants” was in no way some kind of xenophobic or racist manifesto. It was a simple article about how different organizations and law enforcement either deal with or aid the immigrant population of Denton County.

The writer took his time to explain some of the naturalization processes immigrants can go through and the cost of housing arrested immigrants. The section about how the League of United Latin American Citizens provides scholarships for Hispanic students seemed misplaced, as 70 percent of Hispanics in Texas are native-born.

Having previously worked for the NT Daily, I know how the editing process works. There isn’t always time to pick apart the ideas and issues a writer includes in his or her story. But there are two aspects of this story that really got under my skin.

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve heard about the not-so-sudden surge of Central American children that has been causing all kinds of bureaucratic and logistical back-ups for Border Patrol agents, Homeland Security and local counties where these children are being sent to await their days in court.

The writer and editor did not take the time to divorce the two issues at hand. One deals with the usual unauthorized immigration and the other involves a very real refugee crisis.

Both streams of immigrants are coming through the U.S.-Mexico border, so why do I say these are two different issues?

The Central American children leaving El Salvador and Honduras are not the only people seeking asylum in the U.S.

Mexico, Belize, Costa Rica, Nicaragua and Panama have all seen an increase in asylum applications.

The gang violence that plagues Central America paired with mass poverty drives these waves of children away from their homes. United Nations officials have even called on the U.S. and Mexico to officially recognize the children as refugees so they can be considered for stay in the countries.

Our job as journalists is to properly inform our readers, not craft misleading leads that lump two issues together to slightly sensationalize for more clicks or reads.

The other part of the story that frustrated me was one particular line:

“Because racial profiling is illegal, there is no precise way of knowing the exact number of immigrants who are in an area.”

Law enforcement doesn’t know the exact number of unauthorized immigrants in an area because that set of immigrants lives in the shadows. They’re paid cash under the table and the private services they use allow them to live off the books.

I know the writer was not condoning racial profiling for the purpose of tally counting unauthorized immigrants. It would be unfair to assume that.

But I do hope that he will take into consideration that reading statements like that can rattle someone in a negative way.

Our life experiences are different, and I get that. But when you have the ability to reach thousands of people, you also have the responsibility of taking your audience’s diversity into account.

Obed Manuel is a journalism senior. He can be reached at

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